Arlington, VA

This week, we asked the three candidates in the County Board race to write a 750-word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the July 7 special election. 

Here is the unedited response from Independent candidate Susan Cunningham.

I am running for Arlington County Board as a progressive Independent. As a community advocate, mother, and business owner, I know Arlington needs experienced, practical, and effective leadership right now. Professionally, I have led business, government, and nonprofits through crises and change. Here in Arlington, I have worked closely with every County and School Board member, while leading the Hamm Middle School construction (BLPC) and the Historic Interpretation Committee for the Stratford Junior High site, and as a founding member of both the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) and the Lee Highway Alliance.  Grounded in 25 years of professional and community experience, I will ask good questions, bring people together, and get the right things done for Arlington.

Two months ago, I started this campaign with clear priorities around accountability, collaboration, innovation, and practical investments. But the last eight weeks have taught me much more about what Arlington really needs in a new County Board Member. I have talked with Arlingtonians who come from very different places – geographically, politically, demographically, and economically. I’ve listened to their concerns, contemplated their advice, and learned even more about what Arlington needs and wants. And so now, just days before this election comes to a close, I want to share with you what I’ve learned and what I will focus on as your next Arlington County Board Member:

  1. Arlington needs to prioritize our core services. Schools, infrastructure, transportation, housing, and health must be at the top of every agenda during our recovery and beyond. In particular, we must bring APS and County together to innovate and deliver. If we don’t get these right, our future prospects are in peril.
  2. Arlington wants to reconnect our communities. We have to focus on both the visible connections and those that impact our daily lives in other ways. We must physically connect through planning and transit, economically connect through support services, and emotionally connect through facing tough realities about racial equality and justice.
  3. Arlington needs to simplify. For both residents and businesses, our community engagement process is burdensome and unequal for too many. We need to streamline, ensure more representative participation, utilize virtual meeting options, and actually heed community input instead of moving forward with predetermined outcomes. We have innovated during COVID to make it easier to do business — shifting permits online and helping restaurants with grab-and-go parking, signage, and outdoor seating — and should continue to innovate all of our government services for greater ease and efficiency.
  4. Arlington wants bold leadership, during COVID and beyond. Instead of upholding the status quo, I will bring to the Board a focused eye and an open mind. Drawing on decades of experience leading change in government and business, I will challenge our County Board to think differently, hold staff accountable, and be more fiscally responsible and results-oriented in its deliberations and action. Arlington has a $1.4 billion annual budget — we deserve professional management and professional results.
  5. Arlington needs to move away from one-party control. This is the biggest thing I’ve heard — the issue that many blame for an increasing deafness from the County Board and a reluctance of highly qualified candidates to run for local office. Every elected official in Arlington today has been blessed by a single party. This encourages groupthink and discourages tough questioning and drilling down on the details. As an Independent, I will challenge the status quo, probe assumptions, and prioritize critical infrastructure and fiscal discipline over gold-plated projects.
    I am confident I can deliver all of these wants and needs as your next County Board Member. My campaign is heading towards the finish line with incredible momentum, widespread support, and a real shot at upsetting what many assumed would be a predictable sleeper race. Arlington deserves better than a predictable outcome and I’m willing to put in the work to make us better. I humbly ask for your vote on July 7th.

Please join me at susanforarlington.com to volunteer, donate, or find your polling place.

Thank you.

Susan Cunningham

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